I’m thankful for good games today. In action are five winning teams and the Lions who are officially alive.
The business case for adding a game on Black Friday is pretty obvious, but next year’s debut will be something of a game changer when it comes to the league’s relationship with the grassroots: it immediately becomes the league’s biggest scheduling conflict with the high school football.
The league has had some conflicts before. The NFL has played a few Friday games due to special circumstances, and there have been scattered Thanksgiving Day preseason games for decades. But this is different. The Black Friday game looks set to become a staple of the NFL schedule on a day when — for now at least — 26 states will hold high school playoffs or championships, including the 12 largest, according to research from Maxpreps.com and SBJ. (By the way, three NFL stadiums will be hosting prep activities tomorrow — Ford Field, Lucas Oil Stadium, and MetLife Stadium.)
I asked Commissioner Roger Goodell if the NFL considered this before scheduling the Black Friday game along with Prime Video. “My wife is from Chicago and I spend every Thanksgiving with her family watching high school football all day and we also have three games,” Goodell said. “So I think there’s a tremendous interest in football at all levels and we support that,” noting that the league would take that interest into account when experimenting with different ways of “celebrating football”.
Since 1961, federal law has effectively barred the NFL from broadcasting games after 6 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays until mid-December. That’s because while Congress approved an antitrust exemption that allowed NFL teams to cooperate on selling broadcasting rights, it was concerned about the league’s impact on participation in NCAA football and called for the spin-off. Then-NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle felt this was an acceptable compromise for antitrust protection, and it has stuck to it ever since.
That law wouldn’t apply here anyway — it doesn’t cover streaming, and the NFL intends to play the game at 3 p.m. ET before the window begins. But the spirit of the law (protecting high school and college attendance and fanbase) has always had some logic for the NFL, which sees the long-term decline in grassroots tackle football participation as a major strategic challenge. That might be a small concern compared to the revenue generated by claiming a new TV window at a time perfectly suited to Amazon’s interest in cross-selling Prime Video viewers online.
Sources familiar with NFL scheduling expect the league to take a break from playing in Mexico City for the next two years as the Estadio Azteca undergoes renovations ahead of the 2026 FIFA World Cup. But those sources also predicted there will be no net loss in international games, citing hopes of adding a second game in Germany as early as next season.
In an interview, NFL Executive VP Peter O’Reilly was noncommittal on details, saying the league is sticking with Mexico long-term and that details for Germany are still in the works. Referring questions about the Mexico City venue to local operators, he told Germany: “If there’s an opportunity to do more, we’ll think about it. But that really needs to be worked out with the DFL, which is clearly the most important partner, with the schedule and the stadiums.”
There’s no reason to expect new regular-season games in new countries in the next few years. O’Reilly said significant efforts continue to be made to build fan bases through digital and social content in many countries throughout the year. Insiders believe by far the greatest potential of games can be unlocked by building a larger NFL role in Germany, where numbers suggest fan interest has much more room to grow than in the UK, where the NFL has been around since mid- of the year is active. 2000s.
Another factor driving NFL games in Europe: More European games means more football in the promising 9:30 p.m. ET Sunday window. “It’s kind of an added benefit, but the core mission is to get more fans into this product,” O’Reilly said.
Fan token platform Socios, a sponsor of 14 NFL teams, has finally activated two teams in its app, taking a small step towards its vision of subjecting all kinds of club decisions to fan voting.
In October, the Falcons asked fans to log into the Socios app and vote for one of four different end zone liveries for Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Last Sunday, the Falcons used the winning design called “Together We Rise.” In LA, the Rams are accepting votes to decide which of the two endzone liveries they will use against the Seahawks on December 4th at SoFi Stadium.
Why end zone finishes? Socios walks a fine line – its goal is to give fans a sense of meaningful involvement in team decisions without leading them to believe that Socios polls will deliver more than they can (in 2021 complained the Premier League’s Arsenal Supporters Trust about Socios not letting them vote on things that matter).
“If I’m voting on something that affects my team, I want to be able to see it,” said Socios Head of US Operations Mac Douglas. “As much as I’d love to make hiring decisions for the Chicago Bears, I never could. But if I was able to see something that I had a say in, even if it’s just an end zone design, I’d appreciate it.”
In Europe, fans use crypto to buy Socios fan tokens that carry voting rights. But fan tokens are prohibited by NFL policy, so fans simply log into the Socios app and cast their vote. This is part of Socios’ long-term plans to educate and build a user base in hopes of eventually tokenizing. “Until the NFL allows fan tokens, we’re working to get fans to adopt this behavior and adopt trivia, polls, and polls, and help us make in-app decisions,” said Jen, chief commercial officer of Ram’s Prince.
- Some industry insiders, including sports bankers, lawyers and team owners, tell my colleague Chris Smith that they’ve never seen so many controlling holdings on the market at once, let alone so many top-tier multibillion-dollar clubs. Among the North American teams, the Commanders would fetch the highest price by far. “It’s not just an NFL team, it is [also] a trophy value in the NFL,” said one sports banker. “This is one of the top five teams in terms of attractiveness.”
- With the release of its newest Roblox initiative, the NFL Quarterback Simulator, the league continues to cater to the elusive kid and teen demo with the goal of making Gen Z fans (ages 7-22) NFL players for life. viewers, writes Tom Friend of SportTechie. This is the league’s second officially licensed collaboration with Roblox, and integrates the Fuel Up to Play 60 initiative into the platform so young fans can combine physical activity with their game.
- Among the companies highlighted in this week’s SBJ for Power Players: Sports Technology is StatusPro, the company behind the VR game NFL Pro Era. The NFL’s Troy Vincent, the 49ers’ Moon Javaid, and the Giants’ Russell Scibetti are also among those with NFL connections highlighted as part of the feature.
- In this week’s SBJ Media Newsletter, my colleague Austin Karp notes that the NFL could end up with a record number of games in the top 100 shows of 2022.
- While the NFL pressed Amazon on how it would raise the next generation of fans with its Thursday night deal, CAA pitched Amazon to the fact that Dude Perfect is youth-centric, family-centric, and a big football fan. Shortly thereafter, Amazon worked with the Dudes on a mock alternate broadcast of a Cowboys game just so the NFL’s eyes could show the proof of concept. My colleague Erik Bacharach went into depth on Ddue Perfect, including the making of the “TNF” simulcast and how Dude Perfect has grown as a company.